By Nathan Parcells

The increased prevalence of internships over the past decade has established a disconnect between employers and students. While companies are willing to shell out more money to bring on talented prospective interns, students are looking to immerse themselves in hands-on experience within their chosen industry. The future of the internships depends on bridging this gap.

In the latest InternMatch report,“The State of the Internship,” students were asked to weigh in on some of the most pressing questions related to internships. This data revealed important insight into what they really care about when it comes to these immersive experiences–and it’s not a big salary.

Today, students are taking on internships earlier than ever before. In fact, 17.4 percent of students complete their first internship in high school. Another 16.5 percent and 24.9 percent of students complete their first internship during their freshman and sophomore years of college. If you’re targeting upperclassmen in your intern recruiting efforts, you’re likely missing out on a large number of talented students.

Here are a few other things you may be getting wrong during your intern recruiting and hiring processes:

  • Finding a great intern often means starting early. Nearly 38 percent of companies with more than 250 employees start recruiting their interns more than a year in advance. Meanwhile, just 7.6 percent of companies with less than 250 employees do so. If you want to nab talented students before the big companies, begin your recruitment and hiring accordingly.
  • Experience trumps salary. Only 8.8 percent of students stated financial compensation as the main selling point for an internship, while 58.9 percent shared that gaining experience and building a portfolio is the most important aspect.
  • Perks rule. College students and recent graduates crave flexibility. In fact, 55 percent stated that being allowed to work from a coffee shop just one day a week dramatically increased their likelihood of applying for an opportunity. But the top perk for drawing in interns happens to be a pet-friendly office–24 percent of students said they would apply to internships where pets are part of the workday.
  • They don’t care about a restrictive social media policy. Your interns aren’t worried about not being about to check their Facebook on the clock: 82 percent of students said not being allowed to use personal social media accounts while on the job does not impact their willingness to apply.
  • Privacy isn’t a big concern. Only 11.9 percent of students said that knowing that an employer looked at their pictures on their Facebook account would cause them to reconsider an offer. This provides you a green light to continue using social media platforms during the recruiting and hiring process.

Take steps toward improving your internship program by getting to the bottom of what interns really want.

What do you provide your interns with that sets you apart from the competition?

Nathan Parcells is co-founder and CMO of InternMatch, an online platform connecting the best intern candidates and employers. Connect with Nathan and InternMatch on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.